Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (front row – right),??participating in??the service.??

Faith-based organisations need to reach out to young people and to fill the vacuum in moral education with spiritual beliefs.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, made this call while addressing the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies’ Regional Youth Camp at the Abundant Life Assembly, Bank Hall, yesterday.

Senator Sandiford-Garner said the Church and other faith-based organisations had been silent for too long, standing by and letting a generation of young people "slip through our hands".

She stated that the time was now ripe for a revival of interest in young people by offering them "apprenticeships for life" and helping them reclaim their inheritance.

The Parliamentary Secretary noted that a generation of Caribbean youth had grown up without systematic and continuous exposure to religious beliefs and practices. Instead, she opined that, "they had been bombarded with other negative customs", such as the "bashment" culture that glorified anti-social behaviour.

Senator Sandiford-Garner observed: "We need to work together as a family unit, as peers at school, as fellow-workers at the workplace, as good neighbours in the community, as residents of the country and as one people in the region."

She stated that Government had been given the mandate to invest in its most valuable resource, the youth, and to fortify the social safety net to reduce the number of citizens and residents of Barbados descending into a life of poverty and misery.

To this end, she declared Government was strengthening the capacity of umbrella youth organisations, such as the Barbados Youth Development Council, to involve all youth groups and give them opportunities to develop their leadership skills.

Furthermore, she added several Ministries, including Education and Human Resource Development, Social Care, Community Development and Culture, and Youth, Family and Sports, had been strengthened.

Speaking about a 2004 report produced by the National Commission on Law and Order, she disclosed it recommended more effective measures of reaching out to young people. The Government Senator indicated that these measures included the formulation of a National Youth Policy, the introduction of a National Youth Service Programme, greater exposure to religious education, and leadership training for young people.

She said that priority was being given to all of the recommendations. "We have already started the consultation for the National Youth Policy and we are looking at a few models for the proposed expanded National Youth Service Programme," she pointed out.

Mrs. Sandiford-Garner advised the young campers that, in order to seamlessly make the transition to adulthood, they must imbibe the core values that hold society together and these include respect, good manners, honesty, integrity and discipline.

"You must learn the difference between right and wrong and have the courage to do what is right. It is universally accepted that these values are sanctioned by religious beliefs," she underlined.

The two-week camp, which has as its theme "I Want It. I love It. I’ll Live It", is being held at the Grantley Adams Memorial School. It has attracted participants from 16 countries. Topics to be taught include Gender Relations, the Rights of the Child, HIV and other pandemics such as H1N1, Crime and Violence, Substance Abuse, and Finance, Investment and Business Enterprise.

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